WMEAC Likes Posthumus Lakeshore Stand

June 13, 2002
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GRAND RAPIDS — When Lt. Governor Dick Posthumus said he supported continuing a 4-year-old ban on slant drilling along the Great Lakes shorelines, Tom Leonard, executive director of the West Michigan Environmental Action Council (WMEAC), was pleased.

Earlier this summer Leonard called for the state and federal governments to issue audits of oil leases. WMEAC wants to know how much oil is being drilled from those leases, and whether there is a need to issue any more leases to oil and gas companies.

“His analysis pretty much mirrored our own — and our own conclusion, which is to say that while many of the risks may not be great, the benefits are also not great,” said Leonard of the position Posthumus took.

The lieutenant governor and Republican gubernatorial hopeful, made his stand known a few weeks ago on a three-city shoreline trip.

“I have looked closely at the issue of directional drilling and have decided that we should not let it continue. Our Great Lakes are just too precious, and while the risks are few, the benefits are fewer,” Posthumus said in Traverse City.

Leonard felt Posthumus made a very appropriate analysis of the situation.

“I think industrialization of the Lake Michigan shores is to be avoided if at all possible, because the competing interests of environmental, recreational and residential interests, all of these things, simply cannot coexist with that,” he said.

“Economically, and every other way, I think we’re now at a stage where these are the priority interests of the shoreline. We just can’t lightly take risks with that.”

Posthumus also called on the federal government to stop trying to grab authority over the Great Lakes. He fears if that happens water from the Great Lakes could be sent to the west and southwest regions of the nation.

“I’m simply unwilling to trust Washington, D.C., to protect Michigan’s priceless natural resources. It’s our water. It’s our future. And I will fight to keep the hands of Washington politicians out of the Great Lakes,” he said.

“I think our feeling about the lieutenant governor’s statement is very favorable,” said Leonard.

With Posthumus taking that stance, it means all five gubernatorial candidates are opposed to slant drilling.

“We’re feeling pretty comfortable at this point about the direction things have taken. Frankly, I haven’t counted noses real well, but I’m inclined to think the bipartisan opposition to drilling is substantial enough that it is not going to happen,” said Leonard.

“That would be my prediction at this point.”

Leonard said WMEAC hasn’t received a response from the Department of Interior yet on its request for audits of oil leases, but hoped to hear something in a few weeks.

As for the state requests, he said the Department of Natural Resources told him it doesn’t gather that type of data. Leonard also plans to speak with the Department of Environmental Quality to learn whether it tracks the amount of oil drilled from leased sites.

WMEAC is concerned that oil companies may only be pumping enough to cover the basic costs of their current leases, while trying to lease more public land at the same time.

“We are going about it the wrong way if we are basically attempting to empty out oil reserves that we have locally, in preference to oil that is available elsewhere,” he said. “My impression is that we’re more secure having oil under Lake Michigan than if we take it out and burn it all up.”

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